Stigma and help-seeking
Content warning: This piece mentions suicide and mental illness. Some of the material might be distressing. We encourage you to take a break from reading if you need and take time to process the material. If you need support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the University’s Counselling website.
If you realised you needed some mental health support, do you think (or feel) that people might judge you for it? Do you think you’d judge yourself? What are your thoughts and feelings about seeking help from mental health professionals? The 2007 National Survey on Mental Health and Wellbeing found that one in five of individuals aged 16-85 years of age had a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression. That’s a considerable proportion especially given this data was captured over a decade ago. The next data set will be released December this year. As a researcher, I’d be really interested to see how the trends have changed since then, but I digress...
I’m not sure whether being a psychology student factors into my attitude toward help-seeking but I’ve noticed that a lot in my cohort value mental health and view seeking support in some ways as resemblant of keeping up with doctor and dentist visits - you have routine check-ups even when nothing feels terribly wrong. Many accomplished people seek mental health support and not only when they’re feeling depressed, or anxious or needing to process trauma. They go to counselling to:
- Understand their drivers for success;
- Negotiate feelings of loneliness, their feeling that others may not understand their drive to succeed or their ambition;
- Reflect on imposter syndrome;
- As international students, understand their feelings of missing family and friends; and
- Manage their fear of failure; among other things in the “mess and fuss of living”.
Speaking to a professional, such as the psychologists in the Counselling Support team, has been helpful in providing support in other areas that may be affecting a student’s study and life such as working through difficult, complex, or unpleasant data/information. For instance, a Ph.D. student’s thesis topic might require research and gathering data on suicide which could be difficult to read over a long-period of time. Having a professional to speak to regarding thoughts and feelings as they progress through their research could provide the necessary support they need within a safe space.
What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.Glenn Close